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Workplace Crime: Should I talk to HR?

Posted in best practices, business, Employment by commorancy on August 10, 2018

This is a common question and doesn’t have a fast answer. Let’s explore.

Sexual Assault in the Workplace

I’ll talk about this one right up front as it’s front and center news. While this tends to be more common for females than males, both genders can experience this issue. What should you do if you’re groped at the workplace in an inappropriate way? The first question you’re probably asking is, “Should I contact HR?”

The answer is a resounding, NO. Do not contact HR and try to complain there first. In fact, unless you’re a manager, you should entirely avoid complaining to HR. Why? Let’s explore deeper.

Human Resources works for Management

This is an important concept to understand about corporate business. The HR team works for management, not the employees. Many people have a misconception that the HR team is an advocate for the employee. This is entirely false. The HR team members, no matter how friendly they appear, are not and will never be an employee advocate. Only you can be your own advocate (and any attorney you hire). Your employer’s HR team looks out for #1, which is the business and management team.

If the activity you experienced is sexual misconduct and resulted in bruises, marks or injury, then visit a hospital and take photos of the injuries first. Call 911 if necessary. If situation involves rape, then you’ll need to have the hospital perform a rape kit. When you are able and out of immediate danger, you should call the police and file a police report against the person by describing what happened to you in the police report. Always ensure you are out of immediate danger before contacting anyone.

Next, find a lawyer who can represent you in this matter. If the lawyer finds merit in a lawsuit against the accused (or your company), it’s up to you to decide or not to proceed with the case. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you understand the consequences and the monetary costs of pressing such legal action, particularly against high paid executives and your employer.

Once you have filed both a police report and you have a lawyer, only then should you involve the HR team and give them notice of the event. Even then, you should only contact your HR team after discussing this strategy with your lawyer.

The HR team’s responsibility is always to find reasons to discredit you and sweep the event under the rug. Once a police report is filed and you have a lawyer, the HR team can no longer play the protect-the-company game easily because the police are now aware. The HR team is not law enforcement, but they always want to avoid lawsuits at all costs. They exist to make sure the company’s image remains clean and friendly. If it gets publicized that staff are being sexually assaulted in their workplace, their hiring efforts will cease. No one will want to work at a company that wilfully puts employees into harm’s way while on the job. No, it is in HR’s best interest to ensure the employee making the accusation is terminated and discredited. HR may or may not terminate the accused depending on the position held within the company.

For example, if the person being accused of sexual misconduct is a manager, director, VP or C-level exec, it’s almost certain the accusing employee will be targeted for termination. The accused will likely remain at the company. As I said, it’s important to understand that the HR team’s obligation to the company is to protect the management team and the company against lawsuits.

Targeted for Termination

While whistleblowers have protection when working in government jobs, no such protections exist for private corporations. If you whistleblow as an employee of a private corporation, the company is well within their rights to terminate your employment with or without cause. This is particularly true if your employment is considered AT-WILL. Of course, you can also sue the company for wrongful termination. The HR team is well aware of this position as well.

To avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit, the management team will sideline you into a position where you cannot succeed. This will then force you to perform badly and force management to put you onto a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). Because you have no way to succeed on this PIP, you’ll fail at all of the success goals while on the PIP and, at the end of the improvement period, you will be ushered to the door. This is a common practice to get rid of troublemakers and avoid wrongful termination lawsuits.

If you whistleblow and end up on a PIP, you’re being groomed for termination. You should take this as a huge hint to move on.

Termination and Lawsuits

When you’re terminated, you may be asked to sign legal documents stating you won’t sue the company or that you’ll agree to arbitration. Simply ignore the documents and don’t sign them. The company cannot withhold your pay as extortion for signing those documents. If they try this, this is illegal and you can sue them for withholding your earned pay. A CEO can even be personally jailed for willfully withholding your pay even if it was someone else in the organization who made that decision. Your company must pay you the hours you worked regardless of what you sign going out the door.

Also, being terminated doesn’t absolve the company from any legal wrongdoing. If you have a pending lawsuit against the company, being terminated doesn’t change the status of that pending lawsuit. You are still free to pursue any lawsuits you have open. In fact, being able to document termination in a retaliatory way may even strengthen your lawsuit.

Guilt, Lawsuits and your Career

If you witness or you become a part of an illegal activity in the workplace (i.e., sexual misconduct), it is on you to determine how you want to handle it. You can do nothing and let it drop or you can take it to the police. It’s your choice. Too many companies get away with far too much. If you witness or experience anything illegal while on the job, you should report it to the police and consider a lawsuit.

As I said above, if you attempt to go to HR first and ask them to address your concern, instead you will likely find you are being accused, sidelined and treated as the criminal, not the person who performed the misconduct. Why?

The HR team and its management is hired by the CEO and executive team. The HR manager likely reports directly to the CEO or the CFO. As a result, they take marching orders from the CEO. If an employee makes an allegation against a manager or above, the CEO will want to quash this as quickly and as quietly as possible without investigation. To do this, the HR team will state they are investigating, but instead they will begin watching the employee who made the report closely. Even the tiniest slip or mistake will be blown way out of proportion and the accuser be reprimanded. This may lead to a PIP as described above or possible immediate termination.

Basically, if you reach out to the HR team for help, you may find that it is you who are now the target against the ire of the company. Unfortunately, once the executive team paints a target on the back of an employee, it’s only a matter of time before the accuser is gone.

Throw Away Employees

Unfortunately, corporate business is cutthroat about making money and ensuring that that outcome continues. CEOs and the executive team will stop at nothing to make sure business continues as usual. The executive team is not your friend at any company. They are your boss. As a boss, they will do whatever it takes to make sure their business succeeds, regardless of what that means to you.

The only employee in any organization considered important enough to keep on the payroll is the CEO. All else are expendable… and this is especially true of troublemakers. By making an accusation of sexual misconduct against anyone, you may be labeled a troublemaker in your personnel file. If your position is easily replaced, you’ll soon be gone and they’ll fill it with someone else.

For this reason, if you’re alleging sexual assault, you have to make sure to legally document everything including physical evidence of it. The only way to do that is contact the police. Then, hire a lawyer. Only a person whom you are paying can help you to bring justice. The HR team has no incentive to bring justice on your behalf as they are not paid by you. The HR team has every incentive to ignore you and maintain status-quo because they are paid by management.

Illegal Activities

Illegal activities are not limited to sexual misconduct. It also includes embezzlement, money laundering, insider trading, cooking the books, theft, vandalism and any other willful act by an officer of the company. If you witness any of these, you should still file a police report and then talk to a lawyer.

Skip talking to the HR team as they will only cast suspicion on you, try to turn it around on you and/or target you for termination. It is their job to kill these problems as quickly and as quietly as possible using any means necessary. Being able to get rid of problems quietly is the difference between a good and a great HR team. Don’t ever think the HR team is on your side.

HR Perks and Employee Happiness

This goes hand in hand with all of the above. Unless you’re on the management team, the HR team is not your advocate. Yes, HR is there to keep the employees happy, but only on their terms. When a non-management employee brings a problem to the attention of HR, watch your back. This means, never disclose your internal company problems to an HR team member. Sure, you can be friendly and sociable, but always keep the HR team at arm’s length when discussing personal or job related matters. This also means you need to know whom is married to whom in your organization. You don’t want to vent a bunch of personal issues to a co-worker only to find out they are married to the an HR manager or HR employee at your company. Word gets around fast in HR.

As an example, if your company offers company paid counseling as a perk, you should avoid using it. Instead, you should find your own personal counselor and pay them for services yourself. If you disclose anything to a company paid counselor which could be misconstrued as a problem for the company, the HR team may be able to obtain this information outside of any doctor-patient privilege. Because of this, this could give the HR team ammo to terminate your employment. Always be very, very cautious when using such company sponsored counseling services. When the company is paying the bill, they may have made legal arrangements to obtain information that an employee might disclose.

This information can be kept in your employment file and potentially used against you should the need arise. Careful what you say, particularly to company paid counseling services.

Managers and HR versus Employee

Yes, the management team and HR will gang up on you. As an employee, the HR team always takes the word of a manager over the word of an employee. This is fact. There is no such thing as justice or equality in corporate business. The HR team represents the management team without question. If, for example, you accuse a manager of sexual misconduct and that manager tells HR that the accuser made it all up, that’s where the accusation ends. Worse, the manager can then retaliate against you through the HR team’s blessing. There will be no further investigation nor will your accusation receive any further review. However, your work efforts might find undue scrutiny, micromanagement and manager meddling. If you press the point, the HR team will likely begin the sidelining and termination process at the manager’s request.

Even if the HR team requests such complaints come forward, never assume that submitting your complaint to the HR team will result in any satisfactory outcome for you. It won’t. Instead, you will need to rely on the legal system to work for you. This is the reason you should make a police report as soon after the incident as possible, preferably the same day. Visit a hospital if you are injured so they can medically help you and document your injuries. Then, find a lawyer who specializes in whatever you witnessed or experienced and talk to them about your case. If you have been assaulted or raped in the workplace, you should visit the RAINN web site or call RAINN at 1-800.656.HOPE to find out what to do next.

If you choose to try to reach out to the HR team and find that it all backfires on you, you can’t say you haven’t been warned.

Disclaimer: None of this article is intended to be construed as legal advice. If you have legal questions, you should contact an attorney near you who specializes in the crimes you have witnessed or experienced. If you are a victim of sexual assault and/or rape in the workplace, visit RAINN to find out what to do.

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Unlimited Vacation: Blessing or Curse?

Posted in best practices, business, vacation by commorancy on July 23, 2018

I don’t usually get into discussing workplace stuff because it’s relatively boring. However, Unlimited Vacation is one perk that is really, really needs discussion. Let’s explore.

Perks and Jobs

I get it. I understand why companies offer perks. They have to offer perks for talent acquisition reasons such as:

  1. Companies must keep up with competition — If a company doesn’t keep up with what other companies are offering, they lose talent during recruiting
  2. Companies must offer perks that seem inviting — Again, this is a talent acquisition feather-in-the-cap sort of thing. It’s something the HR team can cross off the checklist of things to entice candidates
  3. Companies must offer perks that are inexpensive — Companies don’t want to give away the farm to offer a specific perk

What kinds of perks can you typically find in tech companies? You find perks like the following:

  1. A stocked kitchen — This includes soda, coffee, tea, milk / cream and then for food, this can include fruit, nuts, chips and cereal
  2. Bagel Friday — This perk includes donuts and bagels on Friday
  3. Lunches — Some companies offer subsidized and/or free lunches one or several days of the week

Those are all food related, however, other perks include:

  1. Day Care or reimbursement
  2. Commute expenses
  3. Free parking
  4. Tuition Reimbursement (job related)
  5. Training / certifications (job related)
  6. Paid sick days
  7. Paid vacation
  8. 401k
  9. ESPP (if public company)
  10. Company holidays

These are the HR type of benefits that many companies offer. Many of these have a real dollar based cost to the business. However, there’s a new perk that seems great, but really isn’t for several reasons. That perk is ….

Unlimited Vacation

This ‘perk’ (and I use this term loosely) is now becoming popular in businesses. Why? Because it doesn’t cost the business anything to implement and may actually save the company some money (or so companies think). On paper, the idea seems enticing, in reality it’s a pointless benefit to employees and actually encourages more employees to take vacation which may hinder productivity and deadlines.

Why is this benefit so bad? This benefit is pointless because there is no way any employee can actually use it in its unlimited capacity. If you were to try, you’d be fired and walked from the building. I don’t know of any business that doesn’t require approval for vacation from a manager. Even if you could request excessive amounts of vacation, it’s unlikely your manager would approve it. But, within reason, you can request time off and here’s where it begins to break down for employers.

The only people who can even use this benefit as unlimited are those who are in management positions, who don’t have to report their own vacation usage. In other words, subordinates won’t be able to use it, but managers will (and they will use it frequently).

This is one of those perks that will be abused by those in charge. Those not in charge will be penalized whenever they attempt to use it in any unlimited way.

Vacation Time

In general, asking for vacation time off is tricky. It must always be coordinated with ongoing projects, team commitments (i.e., on-call), other team member time off and holidays and requires manager approval. Even people who end up out sick can interrupt or force rescheduling of vacation time off.

Don’t be tricked by this perk, it doesn’t make vacation time off any more accessible and, in fact it is entirely designed entirely for …

Ripping off Employees

There are two fundamental problems with Unlimited Vacation. The first problem is that the benefit (ahem) is being implemented as a cost saving measure to rip off employees when they leave a company (and is designed to appear to save the company many thousands of dollars). This issue really only affects long term employees. You know, the ones who have devoted several years to your business. But now, you’re going to give them the finger on the way out the door? Smart.

With standard paid time off (PTO), you are allotted a certain amount of hours that accrue over time. Let’s say for every year of service that you complete, you will accrue up to 1 week off (with a maximum of 2 weeks that can be held in total). After 2 years of service, you’ll have those 2 weeks accrued, assuming you never take time off. If you leave the company after 2 years without taking any vacation, you’ll be paid out your accrued PTO balance for the 2 weeks that you didn’t take. That’s two weeks worth of salary you’ll receive upon exit, in addition to any other salary owed.

With Unlimited Vacation, that vacation payday goes away. Since it’s now unlimited, there’s no more time accrued and no more PTO to pay out for any employee. The only thing that payroll needs to keep track of is how much time you’ve used solely for timekeeping purposes. When you exit a company offering Unlimited Vacation, you won’t receive any vacation pay because they are no longer accruing any. This means that when you were formerly paid 2 weeks of PTO, with Unlimited Vacation you now get $0.

Unlimited Vacation is then an HR cost-cutting measure entirely designed to screw exiting long term employees over so companies no longer need to make any vacation payouts.

Here’s where the second problem begins. As employees realize this screw-over job and to make up for the lack of accrued time, this means employees will need to take as much vacation as is allowed without getting fired in the process. Since you can’t accrue, you now need to use.

Accrued PTO vs Unlimited Vacation

Businesses don’t seem to understand the ramifications of this perk on its workforce. The first ramification is that employees with accrued PTO no longer get the exit vacation payday. This is significant when exiting your employer and moving on. But, this only occurs on a termination event. Employees should remain cognizant of this event, but even more employers should remain cognizant of how this will change how vacation is used. As an employer, it means you need to understand how to retain your workforce better.

Here’s the second problem in a nutshell. PTO encourages employees to stockpile their vacation and rarely take it. Up to 50% of the workforce does this. However, Unlimited Vacation encourages employees to take as much vacation as they can legitimately get away with.

With PTO, employees might work and work and work with little time off. With UV, more employees will take more time off, thus working less. This is something that HR and management will need to understand about this benefit. If the point is to get people to take more time off, then UV is the answer. If you’re trying to encourage people to stay at their desks and work, PTO is the answer… but has the end payout.

It really all depends on how you want your staff to work. If you want people at their desks not taking time off, then PTO is your answer. If you want people constantly taking time off, then UV is your answer. Sure, UV saves you on the exit payments, but at the cost of people taking more time off throughout the year. It does one more thing.

The up to 50% of employees who rarely take time off will change their work ethic to include significantly more time off. Since they know can no longer stockpile and get that payday when leaving, they will now be encouraged to take time off to make up for that loss of money. This means that a workforce that you relied on to work excessive hours to make ends meet will no longer continue that trend in your business.

If you think that people will continue the same type of vacation behaviors they used with PTO when on UV, you’re mistaken. People will use what they are owed. If they are encouraged to take time off, they will whenever possible. This means that for the folks who rarely (if ever) took PTO days will now begin scheduling more time off throughout the year. That’s not because it’s unlimited, but because they understand that they no longer get the payout at the end. This compromise ensures they get the equivalent benefit and that means scheduling and taking time off. There’s entirely nothing the HR team can do about this change in vacation usage behavior when on the Unlimited Vacation plan.

It’s a use-it-or-lose it situation. If you never take vacation with PTO, you can justify it with the payout at the end. If you never take vacation with UV, not only do you get no time off, you get no payout at the end. It’s simple math. No payout at the end means using more vacation time to get the equivalent benefit. Employees aren’t stupid and they will realize this paradigm shift and compensate accordingly.

This outcome will happen. You can even watch your employees behaviors after you convert from a PTO to UV system. I guarantee, your employees will notice, understand and modify their vacation schedule accordingly. This may impact your business, so caveat emptor.

Good or Bad?

That’s for each company to decide. More employees taking more vacation is good for the employee and their morale. But, it may negatively impact the productivity of your business. With PTO, people not taking vacation means more productivity. With UV and more vacation time off, this likely means less productivity. It might mean a happier and less stressed workforce, but it likely also means less work getting done.

I’m not saying any individual will take excessive time off. No, I’m not saying that at all. That’s simply not possible. What I am saying is that if 40-50% of your workforce never takes time off under a PTO plan, you will likely find that number reduces to less than 10% of your workforce not taking time off with a UV system. That’s a significant amount more people taking time off throughout the year than on a PTO system.

If you delude yourself into thinking employees who don’t take vacation time off will continue a PTO trend on a UV plan, your HR team is very much mistaken. I can also guarantee that if managers deny vacation requests to keep employees at their desks, this too will backfire and your talent will leave. This will become a catch-22 problem in your business.

As an employer, you spend a lot of money hiring talent. You also spend a lot of money holding onto that talent. Why jeopardize all of that with a policy like UV that won’t really do what what you hoped it would? On paper, it seems like a great cost saving policy. In practicality, it will likely backfire on your company’s productivity efforts and cost you more money in the end, but not for the reasons you think.

Conversion Process

You may find that if you are converting from some other vacation system to unlimited that people do continue their traditional habits. However, that will change over time both as turnover happens and as people realize their loss of PTO payout. Once employees wake up to the realities of the new system, the amount of employees requesting and taking vacation will increase.

A UV policy will make it more difficult on the managers to juggle vacation timing, fairness and who can take what when. This will increase manager load by taking them away from managing projects and deadlines to managing the minutiae of juggling even more staff vacations.

Hourly Employees versus Salary Employees

This type of perk works best in salaried environments. With hourly employees, trying to offer a perk like Unlimited Vacation won’t really work well. This is particularly true of employees working in a call center or similar type environments. With salaried tech workers, this kind of benefit may work for you with the caveats that have been thus far described.

Startup or Established Company

If you run a startup, you should stay away from the Unlimited Vacation policy entirely. It won’t do your business any favors. Sure, it’s more cost effective, but only when long term employees leave. If you’re a startup, you won’t have long term employees to worry about for a while. Your duty is to entice your talent to stay, not leave. If you have a problem with a revolving door of staff, then you have a much bigger problem than a benefit like Unlimited Vacation. The problem for a startup is that a UV plan encourages more people to take vacation more often rather than stockpiling it for use later. Again, more workload for a manager to juggle vacation schedules rather than handling projects and deadlines.

In a startup, a UV policy means more people taking time off. This isn’t what you want when you need all hands on deck to keep the business afloat. You want most people at their desks and readily available at all times. When people take vacation, they expect to be cut off from their job including no email, no pager and no contact. And, rightly it should be. If you’re on vacation, you’re on vacation. PTO plans encourage staff to accrue now and take time off much, much later, perhaps years later. With a UV plan, this  encourages more people to take vacation regularly. Not exactly what you need in a startup. PTO works for a startup because employees stockpile and then once the business is off the ground years later, they will then take their vacations. This is why PTOs are actually better for a startup than a perk like UV.

If your business is established with 500 or more employees, then implementing an Unlimited Vacation policy might be worthwhile depending. With larger numbers of staff, there’s more opportunity for someone to cover an employee who’s out. This means if your 40%-50% staff who are stockpiling decide to start taking vacation in increasing numbers, you can withstand this change in your workforce behavior.

It’s up to you to decide how to operate your business, but PTO vs UV is one perk you should thoroughly investigate and then weigh all pros and cons before implementing it. Don’t do it simply because it might (or might not) save you some cash when employees exit. Do it because it’s the right plan for your business’s current operating goals.

 

How not to run a business (Part 4) — Performance Evaluations

Posted in business, Employment by commorancy on July 7, 2012

Do employee performance evaluations help or hurt your business?  If done incorrectly, they can hurt.  Note that employee evaluations are always negative experiences, so even this can hurt.  Let’s explore why?

Don’t let your Human Resources staff design the employee evaluations

If you absolutely must create and administer the tired ‘once-a-year’ evaluation system, then at least make sure you do it correctly.  That is, assuming there is a ‘correct’ way to do this tired old thing.  Employee evaluations should be designed by someone who is knowledgeable with writing evaluations and who has written them in the past.  Using companies like SuccessFactors to deploy your evaluation system is fine, but is not required. Someone must still be tasked with designing the questions asked of the employee during the evaluation process. Make sure the designer fully understands what is being asked of employees during the process and how it pertains to your business.  Make sure the questions pertain to job performance and not to nebulous concepts like ‘core values’.  Make sure the evaluation asks questions related to actual job performance and that the questions are relevant to all job roles within the company.  Evaluations that target the sales teams with questions surrounding ‘customer interactions’ won’t apply to technical roles that have no customer facing aspects.  So, either create multiple evaluations that work for each department, or keep the questions generic enough that all job roles fit the questions.

Don’t ‘stack’ your evaluations

By stacking, this means that you should not mandate your managers give a certain number of excellent, good and poor reviews.  If one of your managers happen to have very good teams, this means that one or more than one of these individuals will end up with poor performance reviews.  Stacking is the best way to lose good employee talent. You and our staff have spent a lot of time and effort trying to locate the right employees for each job. With one stale internal process, you may have effectively walked some of these employees to the door.  Employees won’t stay where they feel they are not being treated fairly even while putting out high quality work.  Keep in mind that this is especially important for technical roles where talent can be extremely hard to find.  Note, there are under-performers, but a once-a-year evaluation process is not likely to find them.  Only can on-going evaluation processes find under-performers.

Let your evaluation chips fall where they may.  If a team ends up all with excellent reviews, so be it.  Don’t try to manipulate these down because you feel the need to reduce cost of living wages. This comes back to paying your employees what they are worth.  Note, this assumes that reviews will be tied to merit increases.  If not, see the next Don’t.

Don’t decouple evaluations from some form of merit increase

If you decouple employee evaluations from merit increases, you decouple the reason for employees to do evaluations. The question then becomes, “What’s the point in doing this?”  If there’s any question surrounding the employee evaluation process, then your employees will not participate at the level where you need.  This also means that your evaluations will be worthless in the end anyway. And, the employees will also know this.  Keeping the evaluations tied to merit cost of living increases ensures that all employees participate properly in the process.  However, keeping it tied to merit also means that this could lead to ‘stacking’.  Avoid ‘stacking’ like the plague.  If you really want to keep your employees on board, then let the evaluations remain truthful.

Additionally, when you decouple merit increases from the evaluation process, then what’s the point in running evaluations?  Expect employees will opt-out of the review process.  If they chose to opt-out, let them.  Forcing them to participate only leads to forced evaluations which may ultimately have them leave the company anyway and provide you with nothing out of the evaluation.

Don’t require employees to rate their own performance numerically

Numerical or ‘star’ ratings are worthless.  Numbers say nothing about the employee’s work ethic or performance.  They are a failed attempt at trying to ‘rate’ an individual.  The trouble is, if you artificially make the scale low by saying ‘No one is a 5″ on a scale of 1 to 5, then you have made the scale effectively 1-4.  So, then make the scale 1-4 and not 1-5.  If you are using a scale of 1-5, then use the entire scale.  If a person is a 5, then they are a 5.  They are not a 4.  This is similar to stacking.  Do not artificially limit the use of something within the evaluation to make high performers appear lower than they are.  This is counter productive and unnecessary and makes the employee feel as if they under-performing. If that’s the intent, then it’s a job well done.  However, it may lead to employee loss.  Again, you spent all that time recruiting the talent, don’t squander that.  Rating employees and artificially capping the scale is yet another negative.

Don’t do employee performance evaluations simply because you can

Employee evaluations are important for the manager and the employee to discuss performance issues and where performance can be improved.  That’s the point in this process.  It is not about anything other than how to get the manager and the employee on the same work page.  Running this through multiple managers and multiple staff all the way up the chain to the CEO is pointless.  Not only is it a severe time waster for those above the employee’s manager, it’s also a privacy issue that, for some reason, upper management and the human resources department alike think they should be privy to.  In reality, any performance issues are between the manager and the employee. So then, any real performance issues are not likely to present on an evaluation because it might actually become a hostile workplace or HR violation issue.

For example, an employee with poor hygiene and who is causing issues around the office could cause some severe HR legal issues if this information is placed onto a written employee evaluation.  Yet, it is a performance issue.  How do you document this without causing potential legal issues? This is the problem with once-a-year employee evaluations.  Employee evaluations that tend to document those types of issues can possibly result in legal issues for a company.  So, these types of issues are left off evaluations for this reason.  This also means that the evaluations are by their very nature not completely accurate.  Again, why do them?

Let the managers handle all performance issues internally.  If the process needs documentation, then have the manager do so.  But, do so privately.  Airing the dirty laundry for all to see is ripe for both hostile workplace issues and could document potential legal issues that could arise should the employee leave as a result of a documented performance issue.  Note that anything written and placed into the employee file can be come legal fodder should employee legal issues arise.  If the evaluation process documents something that isn’t legal to document, then your business is at risk.  Leading to…

Don’t sanitize employee evaluations after-the-fact

If there is something written on an employee evaluation that puts your business at legal risk, don’t sanitize the evaluation or destroy it after the fact.  This will make things far worse for your business. Instead, leave it as it is. If it’s a legal risk, you can defend yourself in court even if it’s in the document. Removing it from the document or removing the entire document is far more problematic legally than leaving it there. Note, if your employee has to write any part of the evaluation, they can make a copy for themselves.  So, if an employee unknowingly describes an illegal business activity on the evaluation, your business is at risk no matter if you delete or sanitize.   If you are concerned that some illegal activity could appear on an employee evaluation, it may be smarter not to do evaluations.  An employee may keep a version of their copy for their records.  You can’t easily expunge an employee’s personal records.

Don’t expect much productivity out of your employees during evaluation week

Employee evaluations kill at least a week of productivity time for every employee in the company.  Instead of focusing on their job at hand, they are focusing on paperwork that is not related to their job.  Expect that evaluations will lose about a week of productivity just for the paperwork portion alone and turn it into non-productive time.  If your employees’ work time is important to you, you need to understand that during the evaluation process, far less output than normal will get done.  The more you ask of the employee to do on the evaluation forms, the less actual work they will do.  Be careful with this process as it can lead to a lot of lost productivity.  Note, there will also be a week or two of aftermath from the evaluation process where employees will reflect, brood and be distracted as a result of the outcome from their evaluation.  Without any upside to doing the evaluation, this process simply leaves that bad taste to fester.  Which leads to…

Don’t expect sunshine and rainbows

Employee evaluations are by their very nature negative job experiences.  Always.  Evaluations never give glowing job performance reviews.  They are always there to show all of the flaws of the employee and make sure they feel like crap for at least a week or two following completion of the evaluation.  This can negatively impact productivity following the completion of the evaluation.  You need to understand that this process is by its very nature a negative job experience.  It is never a positive experience.  The only positive is a merit increase.  So, for an employee’s suffering through another performance evaluation, the upside is that employees will hopefully see a higher paycheck.  If you decouple merit increase (as stated above), the employee evaluation process becomes a completely negative experience without any upside benefit to the employee.  In fact, there is very little if any upside benefit to the company, either.  This project then becomes an exercise in futility.  If you really want to make your employees to feel like crap for several weeks, this is the exact way to do it.

Think twice before implementing an evaluation system solely because you think it’s necessary.  If employees feel that their evaluation is unfair (many will), expect a number of people to walk away from the company. Expect those that stay to under perform for at least a week following any evaluation.  Expect some employees to brood and eventually leave months after their review.  You will also need to accept some employee departures as a result.  Other employees will realize the exercise in futility and seek a job elsewhere.  Make sure you are well aware of the full ramifications of an evaluation system before you implement it.

Make sure employees get some kind of positive benefit after the evaluation is complete (preferably a merit increase).  If you’re planning to make your employees suffer through a negative job experience, then you need to be prepared to offer some sunshine and rainbows to your employees at the end to make the process go down easier.  As Mary Poppins once said, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” .  You need to find that spoonful of sugar.

Note that the evaluation process should never get in the way of actual work.  Yet, it does.  It interjects itself between the manager and the employee in a way that can drive a wedge between the employee and the company.  A wedge that might otherwise not be there were sleeping dogs left laying, as it were.  That’s not to say that sleeping dogs are a good thing, but depending on the sleeping dog, it may very well be worth not touching. Employee evaluations can open a Pandora’s box with some individuals, so be careful with this process.

Do think up a better way than the traditional performance review system

If you can come up with a new improved performance system that works better than the old, stale, negative system, then by all means implement it in your company.  Such a system would do wonders for making this process much more smooth.  Unfortunately, I do not believe such a thing exists.  In reality, having monthly one-on-ones between the employee and manager should suffice as an ongoing performance review system.  It’s far less negative than the once-a-year evaluation which is mostly pointless.  Do away with the once-a-year evaluation system and go with an ongoing manager and employee system that keeps the employee far more on track regularly than a once-a-year system which really benefits no-one.

Employee evaluations can both help and hurt your company at the same time.  Evaluations can open up problems that may not be necessary for an employee to perform their job properly and at the same time always ends up as a negative experience for all involved.  If you really enjoy running your employees through the ringer once a year, the stale old evaluation process is the way to do it.  Worse, though, is that because it’s a once-a-year event, it doesn’t really serve much purpose unless it is tied to a merit increase.  If it’s not tied to a merit increase, it’s a fruitless exercise for the employee that ends up as completely negative experience.  This is part of the reason so many companies no longer do these.

Basically, do not feel compelled to run evaluations simply because you think you need them.  Think twice before implementing these tired vehicles when they don’t really benefit anyone.  If you must set up a performance evaluation system, then conduct it once a month between the manager and the employee.  Let them discuss active projects, what’s going on today and focus on current performance issues.  Having an on-going regular relevant performance evaluation system is much more productive to job performance today and ends up as a much more relaxed and positive experience.  Out with the old and in with the new.

Part 3 | Part 5 | Chapter Index Page

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